Red Byrd Orchard taps into growing market for artisanal ciders

By: Erika Lundahl

Eric Shatt’s kids get excited to help him run the cider press each year. “We need to remember to put aside some apples to press some non-alcoholic cider they can actually drink,” jokes Eric, owner of [Red Byrd Orchard Cider](http://redbyrdorchardcider.com/).

Based in Burdett, NY, Eric Shatt and his wife, Deva Maas began selling artisanal hard ciders in 2012, pressed from heirloom, wild seedling and European cider apples grown in their family orchards. Eric, who started planting trees in 2004 with the intention of pressing cider, credits Groundswell’s 2012 [Farm Business Planning Course](http://www.groundswellcenter.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=133&Itemid=156) as a key factor in helping them develop the business chops to get the cidery off the ground.

“The class helped us develop a business plan for the first time and really crunch the numbers to get a good idea of what it would take to move the cidery forward,” says Shatt. And Red Byrd is certainly moving forward. The cidery, now in its second official season of distribution, was recently approved for a business loan through Alternatives Federal Credit Union.

The Alternatives loan will allow for more operating capital to be used to purchase equipment, expand the facility, and increase their capacity for cider distribution. Its an exciting next step in the cidery’s evolution, made possible by the resources and financial mentors of the Groundswell program. “It was that class that showed us that a business loan was even an option for a business of our size.” Said Shatt. Shatt loves the process of taking care of the trees, and the pressing process – the equipment bought with the loan money will help optimize the process to make more and better apple and pear cider.

And Shatt knows his way around Cider.  Fermenting from the age 15, he graduated from New Mexico State University with a degree in agrobiology. When he’s not working in his own orchards, he works as Cornell University’s Orchard and Research Farms Manager.  Maas too, holds a degree in sustainable agriculture from Evergreen State College, and has brought her expertise to a number of different agricultural endeavors in the past few years. Groundswell, Shatt says, gives farmers like them the opportunity turn their life long passions into a profitable business. Figuring out the break-even point per barrel of cider was key to developing the pricing for their Spring 2013 keg and bottle CSA program.

Last fall Red Byrd also joined forces with several other upstate NY cider makers to form the Finger Lakes Cider Alliance. Finger Lakes Cider Alliance, a group of cider makers that includes 6 New York ciderys and one New Hampshire cidery, launched “Cider Week” in Ithaca last fall, a cross-marketing campaign that celebrated cider at many different restaurants in the Finger Lakes region.

This season Red Byrd is pairing up with [The Good Life Farm](http://www.groundswellcenter.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=143%3Acraft-farm-profile-the-good-life-farm&catid=40%3Afarms&Itemid=127) in Interlaken, NY as an add-on for the farm’s fruit and vegetable CSA share.  Shatt says he’s looking forward to getting their cider into a few local restaurants or bars. All signs point to Red Byrd further tapping into the upstate New York farming community, and they know that Groundswell is a friend and resource they can come to with any financial questions they might have.

“A lot of people don’t think about the numbers as much as they should, because it’s not their primary interest,” said Shatt. Shatt and Maas, between raising kids, sheep, and working jobs, have figured out how to divide the business responsibilities of the cidery so they can spend the most time doing what they love.  Shatt runs the pressing production operations, Maas does more of the distribution and marketing, blogging about all things cider on their website, and they work the orchards together. It’s an exciting time for Red Byrd, and for the upstate cider community.

To see what Red Byrd’s up to now, check them out on their website at redbyrdorchardcider.com.

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